The New Birth

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“For it is you who light my lamp; the LORD my God lightens my darkness.”(Psalm 18:28)
“Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart. Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he shatters the doors of bronze and cuts in two the bars of iron. (Psalm 107:13-16 ESV)

The Christ-child come in the flesh, born new.  Always existing as God, but taking on human flesh – willingly born in time and space.  The Creator taking on the likeness of the creation.  Entering our dark world at just the right time to give new birth.  His birth making way for each of us who believe to be birthed anew.

Why do we need new birth?  What’s wrong with us?  What was wrong with our first, physical birth?

We entered this dark-as-night world on the day we were born.  We entered the world of creation stumbling about in darkness.  Bound by the lies which took the human race down into darkness in the garden so long ago.  Born running away from the light.  Born preferring darkness so that our sins could be hidden.  Born rebelling against our Creator.  Born in such sadness, no matter how wonderful our family might be.

But born to HOPE…such amazing hope.  Hope because the Christ-child entered our darkness with piercing God-light. He lowered himself and became one of us, pierced for us, in our place.

Our stumbling, groping and life of dark lies has been pierced!  The most amazing news you will ever hear!  Our darkness penetrated by the light!

The light has shone and we can now walk in that light.  A light which cannot be overcome with darkness.  Born again…from darkness to light.

The world, oh it is still dark, but those who have surrendered and embraced the piercing work of the pierced Christ for them are now light.  Those whose eyes have been opened to see the darkness and embrace the light.  Light in Christ, light of Christ, light because of Christ.

New birth = light. True life. Purposeful breathing in and out. Embracing the perfect One who has covered us by His birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension.  

And this isn’t our best life, now…oh no!  All is tainted by this Eden-darkness – but this fleeting life will culminate in eternity, forever in the light.  The Eden-before-lies will be restored…and then some.  Where the sun and moon will be replaced by the One who gave Himself so that we can forever be with Him.  Us!  Those in darkness mixing with Light?  Praise the One who was birthed, entering our darkness so long ago.

The darkness cannot overcome the Light!

And when new physical life is brought into this dark world, we rejoice.  New life is miraculous, precious, breath-taking!  We pray, hope and plead with their Creator that He will pierce their darkness and give them new spiritual life at some point in their fleeting physical life.  And we train, disciple, weep with, rejoice with, live side-by-side with new life creations.  And new physical life grows old and fades away…

But new spiritual life, new birth…the heart of stone transformed, the spirit made alive, a life humbled and filled with THE Spirit of Christ, indwelt and powerful – now that creation lives forever in the light!  Our physical man fades away…but no fading away of the new creation, only renewing and changing into the likeness of the Christ, who gave all.  New spiritual birth is as beautiful as it gets.  It is painful, but beautiful.  Painful piercing of our darkness, but utter relief to be walking in the light no longer stumbling about.  As Rosaria Butterfield in her book, “The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert” quotes, “Although grateful, I did not perceive my conversion to be “a blessing”.  It was a train wreck.”  Painful reorientation of life, priorities, loves…but oh so worth it!  Eternally worth the piercing here in this fleeting “now”.

And when Christ allows us to witness the new birth in the life of another, such joy, relief and agony mix into one.  Joy inexpressible as the old becomes new…new creation.  Relief because one we care about has been rescued from the domain of darkness.  And what could be more important?  And yet agony as the flesh begins its warring with the Spirit now living inside.  The fight with remaining, indwelling sin begins.  And it’s hard, and it’s painful – but eternally profitable.  And the more we grow, the more we see this indwelling sin.  The more we are thrown onto this Christ-child and His daily-new mercies.  The more we are thankful for His saving, atoning, keeping, and rescuing work.  Peeling back the layers of us – once deeply entrenched in darkness, revealing new graces from Him to overcome each putrid layer.  Christ-followers aren’t made instantly perfect, only a new creation in Him.  Baby-hood…growing each day to be more and more mature.  Awaiting the day when our Lord and Savior, the Christ-child returns for us.  And on that day we are made completely NEW and perfected.  Come Lord Jesus!  Come!

Our Christ has pursued, chased after and won over His children.  He saves!  He is our only Savior!  And His timing for “newness” is always perfect.  Never doubt it!

And why?  Why me?  Why anyone?  Are we deserving or worthy?

We dwelled in darkness and in the shadow of death.  Darkness and death do not mix with the Father of Lights.  But one word…love!   Love that seeks, finds, rescues, changes, makes new, and will come back for one day…

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Oh, I need it!  I need rescued just as much today as I did on that October day when the Father initially rescued me and the Spirit indwelled me.  And Oh!  I need HIM!  I need the life-giving Light ever as much (and I realize it more now than I did then, even)…And needing Him, having Him, knowing Him is what it is all about.  Forsaking the darkness for the Light will never be regretted.  Oh so many other regrets, but never that one!  At the end, nothing else will matter.  Not houses, jobs, aspirations, dreams, pursuits of happiness, earthly success, wealth…only knowing God as Father through the Christ-child will matter.  A relationship – not a religion.  A relationship with the Son in whose eyes the sick found such healing and love while He walked this darkness called Earth.  One who endured the unthinkable in our place.  Who nailed our sins (which are many and ever-present) to the cross and spread his hands in love and died a piercing death.  Unthinkable love!  Unimaginable love!  Undeserved love!  Thank you, Jesus!

Thank you for rescuing again…just this week…a loved one!  Thank you that I got to witness it.  I’m in such awe of You!  And the angels in heaven are rejoicing!

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The Power of the Cross

Once in darkness now in light
Once blind now I see
Once a sinner now a saint
Once bound now free.

Once a stranger now a child
Empty now filled
Once condemned now reconciled
Broken now healed

Once a prodigal now home
Once lost now found
Once an enemy now a friend
Once poor now crowned

That’s the power of the Cross
See the chains fall
That’s the power of the Cross
See the chains fall

© 2009 Shelly E. Johnson Music (BMI) (Admin. by Music Services).

Broken, Torn Apart

Feeling utterly broken these days.  Weeping over my own sin and it’s depths, which often seems so ever-present and deep that it cannot be fathomed.  I no sooner repent of one sin, but another horrible thought pops into my mind.  Or despair and discouragement seek to take over all thoughts.  And I seek to repent some more.  Oh, friend!  BUT for the cross of Christ, I would surely perish in the sorrow and blackness of sin.  The cross…that to which I will cling.  My only hope!  Amidst the blackness, the brokenness, the sorrow of this fallen world…

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9

Also weeping over the sin of those I love around me.  Satan is busy, busy.  And we think our sin only effects us.  We are blinded to the ripple effect.  And the anger deep within is welling up.  I am so angry that in the devil’s prowling about he’s won many a victory lately (resist him! and he will flee…).  But his damnation is sure!  Oh, and may we not go with him!  Pleading with God to thwart the enemy’s plans THIS day.  Pleading with the Spirit to show up!  For the Father to display His power in this story He is writing of which members of my physical and spiritual family, near and far, get to be a small part.  Begging him to be real, here, present, moving, working.  Weeping some more.  Begging that our eyes will be opened to the lies we believe and the mud we play in.  It’s ugly and yet we chase after it and think it’s beautiful.  Damn those lies!

“Oh God!  Open eyes…wake us up…and cause us to run in the opposite direction!  Bring true repentance! Open eyes to believe truth.  Deliver from the prince of the power of the air and his plausible lies.   Break us utterly upon the Rock lest we be crushed by Him in the end.”

Broken now so as to be mended and whole in the end…I’m slowly learning it’s a good place to be. And on this side of it, I ask myself, “Why slowly? Why did I ever play in the mud for the first 26 years of my life…and even since then…since I’ve been a believer?  Why did (and do) I ever resist Him?”  The Lover of my soul, the One who gave Himself for me, the One who called me out of the pit through kindness and mercy?  Thank God that I can now see repentance as a beautiful thing, worth more than costly jewels.  It’s the place I want to be, to desire, to seek after.  And He gets all the glory!  He is near to the broken hearted.  And I desire His nearness above all.  So broken I shall remain.

“But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’  Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” James 4:6-10

“For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5

This seems to be a season of weeping.  Longing for that morning of joy. And it’s a humbling place to be.  Sometimes the gift of empathy feels like a curse.  But I know it is for the purpose of brokenness and “low-as-dirt humility”.  So through a broken heart, through tears, through much fighting for repentance, a forgiving spirit, begging God for mercy…I cling to Jesus – my ONLY hope and the THE only hope for those around me.

And isn’t it amazing that God takes our sins and uses them for His glory and our good?  So hard to wrap my mind around.  He is sovereign!  And what hope this brings.  He takes our messes and gives us a message of Christ’s redemption (thanks, Sarah!!).

This song was playing through my head a few mornings back.  It’s a Point of Grace song from years ago, but just a beautiful prayer and the cry of my heart today.  I am beyond thankful that though He breaks, He heals.  Though He wounds, He binds up.  Though we live in an utterly fallen world, ONE DAY is coming when it will be new and right and His presence will be the LIGHT.  Darkness will be gone and the lies of the devil will be no more. But the scars will remain, just as the nail holes in Jesus’ hands and feet and the piercing mark in His side will be there for us to look upon…as a reminder of what HE has done for us.

Heal the Wound

I used to wish that I could rewrite history
I used to dream that each mistake could be erased
Then I could just pretend
I never knew the me back then

I used to pray that You would take this shame away
Hide all the evidence of who I’ve been
But it’s the memory of the place You brought me from
That keeps me on my knees and even though I’m free

Heal the wound but leave the scar
A reminder of how merciful You are
I am broken, torn apart, take the pieces of this heart
And heal the wound but leave the scar

I have not lived a life that boasts of anything
I don’t take pride in what I bring
But I’ll build an altar with the rubble that You’ve found me in
And every stone will sing of what You can redeem

Heal the wound but leave the scar
A reminder of how merciful You are
I am broken, torn apart, take the pieces of this heart
And heal the wound but leave the scar

Don’t let me forget
Everything You’ve done for me
Don’t let me forget
The beauty in the suffering

Heal the wound but leave the scar
A reminder of how merciful You are
I am broken, torn apart, take the pieces of this heart
Heal the wound but leave the scar

Heal the wound but leave the scar
A reminder of how merciful You are
I am broken, torn apart, take the pieces of this heart
And heal the wound but leave the scar, leave the scar

Read more:  Point Of Grace – Heal The Wound Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Different Kinds of Beautiful, In His Time

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While out on a family hike, this beautiful leaf lying on the dirty, unattractive ground reminded me of how the Lord makes all things beautiful in His time.  There are seasons for everything, even different kinds of beauty.  There is a time for the grass to be beautifully green.  There is a time for this beautiful grass to turn brown and lie dormant through the season of cold.  There is a time for leaves to turn from green to glowing reds, yellows and oranges.  Then there is a time for them to fall on the dormant grass.  There is a time for them to fully dry up and return to the dirt.  The cycle then repeats itself the next year.  The cycle of beauty and seasons.  The timing always perfect.  And we watch, knowing that the seasons of our life are the same, always in His perfect timing, way and place.

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And there is always beauty.  What a reminder to me that in a season of pounding on the brassy skies to a seeming emptiness, in a season of wavering faith, He always shows up with beauty – in His time.  I just need to open my eyes to see it – His way, while waiting patiently – knowing…  There are different kinds of beautiful and different seasons for when these beauties show up.  Brokenness is beautiful, in every season.  Thank you, Lord!  Or the simple sunshine on my face. Or the wonderful smile, hug and kiss from a precious child.  Just being around other humans created in the image of an all-wise Creator is beautiful!  Beauty is all around in every season, because God is the Creator of all beauty, in all forms.  Lord, help me to see beauty as You do.  And thank you for promising to one day bring beauty from the ashes (in Isaiah 61:3).

“O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am.” Psalm 39:4

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Family Communion

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There are milestones in life.  Well, not really so much milestones as memorial “stones” along the path of life.  God is kind to give us these to remind us of His ever-guiding hand of faithfulness.  He reminds us that He is there, moving and orchestrating our life in this fallen world.  He is the Master-Weaver, Redeemer!  Weaving, redeeming and owning our sin-stained story as part of His pure master redemptive story.  But often in our moments of decision making, we wonder if the results are going to be mountains of hay and stubble or gold, silver and precious stones.  We step out in the little faith that we often have and keep moving forward.  Keep moving in His direction, as we believe it to be at the time – from our limited viewpoint and imperfect faith.  Resurrection being our only hope, regardless!  As Paul Miller, author of A Loving Life, says, “We experience life, the story we inhabit, as if we are walking backward.  The future is completely unknown.  We see the present through our peripheral vision, through a kind of fog.  Only the past has some clarity, and that clarity increases with time.”  And memorial stones are those reminders to our forgetful souls that God has worked in the past, is working and will always be – no matter what!  He is alive!

One such memorial “stone” for us in the past five months is that we have experienced getting to take communion for the first time with our four oldest children.  This might sound ho-hum.  But to us it is huge!  Each of our children came to be a part of our family through their own God-written story.  An individual story that links them to a larger family’s story, with roots back to Noah and Abraham, David and Elijah. God plucked them from a sure destruction and gave them a new name and heritage, running deeper than any blood relations.  But solely based on His blood shed on the cross!  And each child’s story woven into ours represents death.  Death of a birth mother’s girlhood dreams, death to our freedoms (“love narrows the path but broadens the soul”, as Paul Miller reminds us again).  Love begins with death.  And there we sat last night at our church’s Good Friday service, our two six-year-olds taking Jesus’ body for their first tangible remembrance in their story of redemption. And there sat my son whom we picked up from the hospital at 2 days old and there sat our daughter whom we embraced for the first time half-way across the world when she was 5.  And how can it be that of all the millions and millions, they came to be with us.  A loving, wise, master-weaver who knew the end of the story, before its beginning.  At the time of each adoption, the future was completely  unknown (as it continues to be) and the present was very foggy (as it continues to be).  But now, a little ways down the path, we see clearly His hand as we look back!  He inhabits eternity and all our “now” moments.

One of my favorite musical artists these days is Matt Maher.  The words are rich and life-giving to my soul as I listen – usually in the midst of life’s busyness.  One of my favorites is a song called Remembrance.  It is such an amazing reminder!  Read the words below and be amazed again at what Christ Jesus has done.  He came, He died, He rose again, He’s writing our story.  And we get to be a part of His!  As we take His life, death and resurrection as our own, giving up on all else and embracing Him alone, we find what we could never have found or had on our own – a family with deep roots, a family whose story of redemptive love and communion is our own.  Praise Jesus!

Oh, how could it be
That my God would welcome me into this mystery
Say take this bread, take this wine
Now the simple made divine for any to receive
By Your mercy, we come to Your table
By Your grace, You are making us faithful
Lord, we remember You
And remembrance leads us to worship
And as we worship You
Our worship leads to communion
We respond to Your invitation, we remember You
See His body, His blood
Know that He has overcome every trial we will face
None too lost to be saved
None too broken or ashamed, all are welcome in this place
By Your mercy, we come to Your table
By Your grace, You are making us faithful
Lord, we remember You
And remembrance leads us to worship
And as we worship You
Our worship leads to communion
We respond to Your invitation, we remember You
Dying You destroyed our death
Rising You restored our life
Lord Jesus, come in glory
Lord Jesus, come in glory
Lord Jesus, come in glory
Lord Jesus, come in glory
Lord, we remember You
And remembrance leads us to worship
And as we worship You
Our worship leads to communion
We respond to Your invitation
We respond to Your invitation, we remember You

Kombucha Gummies

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I saw this recipe recently on Pinterest and decided to try it. My kids love gummies, and healthy gummies, not laden with sugar is a win in my book!

The kids have devoured half of them in the last couple of minutes with our youngest informing us she was getting fatter. Ha! This double batch has 48 grams of protein as well as the probiotic benefits of the kombucha. The secret ingredient is Great Lakes unflavored beef gelatin, a collagen joint care product with a ton of benefits, including protein.

The recipe:

2 cups kombucha (we used homemade cherry kombucha)
2 cups fruit purée (mango and black raspberry…but seedless fruit would be better)
8 Tablespoons gelatin
3-4 Tablespoons honey

Warm kombucha (not boiling, as that will destroy its benefits) and whisk in gelatin. Add purée and honey. Pour into molds or a buttered pan to later cut into squares. Refrigerate a couple of hours.

Really anything could be added to these as long as the liquid to gelatin ratio stays similar. So the options are endless! They were quick, yummy and healthy.

Friday Laughs…Or Maybe Tears

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While reading the creation story again to the kids (we finished the Gospel Story Bible, so started it all over again) recently, the thought struck me that Satan is the ultimate tattler and the father of it.  We are in a phase of life where it seems that the kids are in this increasingly bad habit of tattling on each other.  I am sure it is attributed to our lack of something…always, right!?  I know that I sometimes listen to their tattling and sometimes don’t, so they have some incentive to gossip about each other on the chance I will happen to take sides at that moment.  Lord help me to have wisdom and consistency!  So the word around the house has been that tattling is of the devil.  We try to encourage them to go to the person they have a problem with and talk to them about it and only if that person won’t listen – well, Matthew 18.  I tell them that it is our job as their parents to give them the tools they need to increasingly learn how to be like Jesus.  And I remind them daily that I AM NOT a perfect mother…like they don’t already know.  But that we DO have a perfect Father!  And it is amazing how kids pick up on this and take it to heart…or sometimes use it to continue getting what they want. Hee!  So the kids were all sitting in the van, waiting on us to be done with something a couple of days ago.  I open the door and the first thing I hear is M (our 7-year-old daughter) telling me that Buzz (6-year-old) is about to do the work of the devil.  I had to turn around and laugh!!  So I immediately knew that she had done something and didn’t want her brother telling on her.  But how convenient to remind him that he was going to be “doing the work of the devil” to get her off the hot seat.  Buzz didn’t seem to mind that title and continued on with his tattling.  Oh dear…still laughing (and praying)!

I am so thankful, and increasingly so, that the Lord is a perfect parent, always consistent and wise.  Always loving in his moment by moment dealings with us.  His mercies are new every morning and his faithfulness reaches to the skies!

I have to share one more story.  We have had the immense privilege of attending our church’s missions conference this week.  It was so well done and Jesus-glorifying.  We loved hearing what the Lord has done and is doing through His servants around the world.  I could go on and on!  But our oldest son (9) is bound and determined he is going to be a missionary. This has been on his heart for a while now.  Of course, it has to be combined with the ship he plans on buying and sailing around the world.  Ha!  He is currently writing a story that he wants to make into a movie. His story is called “Consumed” and is all about being consumed by and for the Gospel.  It tells the story of a family (white family, he says) that travels to Africa, adopts black kids along the way and shares the Gospel as they go.  It is so heart-warming!  But he leans over to Adam in the middle of church, the week before the missions conference, and says something along the lines of, “I want to be sure and come the missions conference so that I can learn how to be a missionary.  I want to be a missionary, no matter what!  Even if I get my heart cut out.”  Ha!

May we all have the child-like faith of the little warriors among us.  I tell my kids all the time that adults have to come to Jesus as little children, with that quiet trust that simply believes and is willing to obey.

Happy Friday!

Delicious Calzones

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I made these calzones for the kids tonight. Adam and I have been doing an Isagenix cleanse and staying away from gluten since the beginning of February, so we couldn’t eat them. But I love baking and trying new things and my hungry kiddos are happy to eat them. This recipe from The Pioneer Woman was delicious. I made a double batch of my tried-and-true pizza bread from scratch using half whole wheat (see recipe below), but other than that I followed her recipe pretty closely. Definitely one to add to the family cookbook for a re-do.
Perfect Pizza Crust
——————————————————————————–

Recipe By: Taste of Home
Yield: 1 pizza

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups water, 115-120 degrees
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

Directions:

1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the sugar, salt, 1 cup bread flour and the whole wheat flour as well as the parmesan cheese and seasoning. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining bread flour to form a soft dough (dough will be slightly sticky).
2. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled (about 1 hour).
3. Punch dough down; roll into a 15-inch circle. Grease a 14-inch pizza pan and sprinkle with cornmeal. Transfer dough to prepared pan; build up edges slightly.
4. Add toppings of your choice.
5. Bake at 425 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until crust is golden brown and toppings are lightly browned and heated through.

 

A Life Celebration…and a Look Back

It is so hard to believe that it’s been one year since we had the immense privilege of holding our baby girl’s first-ever birthday celebration.  (Birthday celebrations were not a part of their lives in the DRC.) Where does time go?  Today, and this weekend, we got to celebrate her life for the second time, in an extra-special way. Every day is a celebration of life, right?!  But little B-Lamb, also known as the family “puppy”, turned 4 today and what a precious gift she is to us.

I was thinking back recently to the very first time I saw she and Joy-Bubble and got to hold them in my arms.

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It had been a long 7-month fight to get to Africa to bring our new little girls home.  Adam went first and then I had flown by myself into one of the most broken countries in the world, arriving at night…a white woman, walking through a very African airport surrounded by military, UN officers, police – everywhere…with machine guns.  I will always remember that moment I stepped off the plane outside, at night.  I will remember it because I should have been scared out of my mind, but I was so excited and unnaturally calm.  And those African faces were beautiful and intriguing.  It was one of those times that I felt in a very tangible way the presence of my Heavenly Father.  God’s love took us there, a big jump out of our comfort zone, in temporary ways and permanent, and His grace surrounded us each step.  It was an amazing experience all the way around.  And looking back, it was our gracious Heavenly Father that got us through every step of the way.  I have asked, “How did I do that?” It was not something that I could have ever done without His guiding hand, protection and grace!

The next day, the moment came for us to travel through a city of 10 million to arrive at the orphanage to pick our girls up, girls I had never met or laid eyes on, other than in photos.  And these were my girls!  I could not wait to get there and meet them and begin showering them with love.  To let them know that they were loved and cherished by a mama and papa and brothers and sister who were waiting for them.  Forever family who had invested much into getting to them.  It must be a glimpse into how Jesus feels now…waiting for the moment the Father tells Him to go get His children at the end of the ages.   He is coming for us!

Here in the new state where we live, where trans ethnic adoption seems a bit rare compared to where we are coming from, I have gotten some of the most interesting (let’s just be nice and call it that) comments and looks and stares.  “Oh bless you for doing that.”  or “Aren’t you so nice.” Kind of like we just took in puppies and what a big heart we must have.  As if orphans aren’t human, made in the image of God, and our responsibility as the children of God.  What is at the core of God’s heart  is where I want my heart to be beating!  Adoption is definitely countercultural – everywhere.  But it is at the heart of God our Father.  It is His culture and praise His name that it is so, or where would I be?  How could I, as a sinful woman (a very unloving sinful woman, I might add) lay eyes for the first time on two little girls that I did not bear from my own body, a bit older than usually acceptable, total strangers, a bit dirty and smelly, in a third-world country, and $40,000 poorer  –  for the very first time, and feel amazing love, compassion and a fighting mother-bear instinct.  It was God!  Can I shout it from the mountaintop?!! It was GOD!  He chose me and sent His Son to rescue me and adopt me – plucking me from the pit.  And as we live in the “already, but not yet” we long for His final and grand return.

I remember walking into the orphanage, seeing a sea of beautiful brown faces, and searching for our girls.  They came to us immediately and it was in that moment that I fell in love with them.  Little B-Lamb clung to me and smiled.  She was dirty and her clothes were mismatched but her smile and beautiful face grabbed my heart.  A smile that afterwards we heard never happened. She was known to cry all the time at the orphanage.  And she and I just had that instant bond.  Adam and I just kept telling the girls over and over again that we loved them (in Lingala)…a bit countercultural to the sweet Africans watching.  We were definitely the sappy Westerners!  And I love that girl today just as fiercely and even more dearly.  She was following me around the house the other day (as she often does…she is a worker and helper!) and I heard her talking under breath saying, “Mom’s the best. Mom’s the best. Mom’s the best.”  Oh my goodness!! Melt my heart.  I am still blown away when I hear her say, “Mama.”  What a beautiful privilege and a huge responsibility.  And anyone who has been a mother for a while knows, this is just the beginning.  The fight to bring them here will have been nothing in comparison to the prayers, tears, gray hairs, longings and intercessions made for her as long as I have breath.

So it has been almost a year and a half now since we became a forever family.  And again, it’s my Father who gets all the credit for how well everyone has meshed together and grown as an expanded family.  Seven sinners (actually 9 since we’re living with in-laws – ha!) living under the same roof – living life together everyday…very closely.  And my Father is kind every.single.day!  Last night, our Joy-Bubble couldn’t contain her excitement for B-Lamb’s birthday today.  And all the others woke up with extreme excitement – kind of like it was Christmas morning or something.  Nope, just B-Lamb’s birthday. They all love this little lady, a little one grafted into our family and forever enriching and changing our life stories.  Grace…all is grace.

Here are some recent photos to show her 4th birthday:

IMG_4658She got to take her turn going out on a date with her daddy.

IMG_4629We enjoyed the one nice day lately and went to the zoo (an old birthday tradition from when the three originals were younger).  It was a blast!  Here we photographed the boy we are missing in the family. Ha!

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IMG_4671She chose strawberry pancakes for her breakfast (we ended up with crepe cake).  We love food and birthdays in our family!

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My gluten free version of a Pinterest find here.  Adam said it was the best sweet breakfast food he had ever put in his mouth.

IMG_4683For lunch, she requested yogurt (and vitamins – ha!) So we turned it into a yogurt bar, with lots of fruit and some granola crunch.

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IMG_4717She requested a strawberry birthday cake.  So here is my gluten free version of this Pinterest find.  It was absolutely delicious!

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Each of our original three children has a song that we gave them years ago.  One is The Lily of the Valley. Another is How Firm a Foundation.  And the third is A Mighty Fortress is Our God.  This song will be their song for life.  One that, by God’s grace, will flow through their minds at random times, reminding them of the love and care of their Father.  We pray it’s an anchor for their souls.  An anchor to a family that is bigger than us – one that has Abraham and Moses and David in their heritage.  A reminder that their story is a small part of the larger redemptive story He is writing that will be consummated at His return.

So today we chose All I Have Is Christ for little B-Lamb.  Here are the words below.  Read and be encouraged in what Christ has done for you and will do in and through you.

VERSE 1
I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still

VERSE 2
But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace

CHORUS
Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life

VERSE 3
Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me
Oh Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You

© 2008 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glimpsing Rest…

I love having Scripture on my walls. There is just something about being surrounded with the living and powerful Word each day that helps to keep my heart focused on Him. Currently all wall art is in storage, and I have missed it! But Adam bought me this new one while we were shopping in Amish Country yesterday. Psalm 62 has always been a special chapter, which is why this caught my eye. I remember reciting it with my family growing up, although it is much dearer to me now. So we are squeezing it into our current room as a reminder to rest in Him alone. Ah! Breathe in deeply and REST in Him! All else is sinking ground, unstable, changing, fading away. Anxiety and worry produce nothing. But resting in Christ alone is the stability our redeemed souls long for and where I desperately want to be found each day. And this reminder is a gift to help me. Thank you, Father.

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Bread Bowls

We have recently started watching a few Pioneer Woman episodes on Amazon Prime.  After watching one of them, Rhee got us all hungry for soup served in bread bowls.  In one of my last posts, I mentioned how much I love baking bread.  And these bread bowls have been a favorite stand-by, though I usually just make round loaves and slice them up.  But this time, bread bowls it was!  And to make it an even more special, I had a devoted helper – our sweet Buzzy.  He loves to help out in the kitchen and was so happy to squish some bread in his hands.

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Bread Bowls
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Recipe By: Taste of Home
Yield: 4 round loaves

Ingredients: (I double this recipe)

1 cup plus 3 Tablespoons water, 120 degrees
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour (white or mixture of white and wheat)
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

Directions:

1. Combine 1/2 cup warm water with yeast and sugar. Let stand until bubbly.

2. Combine the rest of the ingredients and add yeast mixture to it. Mix until dough pulls away from bowl (adding a little more flour, if necessary). Turn onto floured surface and knead for 6-8 minutes (or until smooth and elastic).

3. Place in a greased bowl and let rise in a warm place until doubled (about 1 hour). Divide into 4 small balls. Place on a greased cookie sheet or baking stone. Let rise until doubled.

4. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.